Who: USMNT vs Curacao
When: Sunday @ 8:30 pm ET
Where: Lincoln Financial Field, Philadelphia PA
Line: USA -910 | Draw +600 | Curacao +2000
The Gold Cup draw has been kind to the USMNT. That largess continues Sunday night when the heavily-favored Americans kick off against Curacao at 8 o’clock at Philadelphia’s Lincoln Financial Field.
The Yanks came into this year’s CONCACAF Championship tournament unburdened by lofty expectations. This is largely due to disappointing performances in a pair of friendlies just prior to the Gold Cup, losing to Jamaica, 1-0 and Venezuela, 3-0.
The cumulative effect of the two matches was enough to cancel out the, “it’s only a friendly” chatter that normally accompanies such tune-ups. This only added further negativity to a fan base already drowning in the stuff.
Then, once the Gold Cup began, the U.S. took advantage of leading a weak group. They beat up on Guyana by 4-0. They improved on that with a 6-0 stomping of a dire Trinidad and Tobago team that bore no resemblance to the side that eliminated the U.S. from World Cup qualification back in 2017.
Bouyed by that start, U.S. coach Gregg Berhalter made 11 changes to his side for the final group stage match versus Panama and still managed to escape with a 1-0 victory to win the Group.
Curacao’s Cinderella run
So, what to expect from the tiny nation of Curacao? First of all, Curacao is a nation. In fact, it is one of four Constituent countries that make up The Kingdom of the Netherlands (the Netherlands, Aruba, Curaçao, and Sint Maarten).
But can they play soccer? Sure. Ask Honduras, who lost a shocker, 1-0, to send the tiny Caribbean nation on its way to a second place finish in Group C action.
The former Netherlands Antilles also drew with Jamaica 1-1, a solid result that should get the U.S. to sit up and take notice.
A 1-0 loss to El Salvador rounded out Curacao’s first round, so the Americans will need to be on their toes on Sunday night.
What to expect vs surprising Curacao
Given its status as a part of the kingdom of the Netherlands, it is not surprising that several players on this Curacao side play professionally for Dutch clubs. This includes starting goalkeeper Eloy Room, a reserve keeper with PSV. Center-back Cuco Martinais an Everton player, although he has been on loan to Eredivisie side Feyernood.
Attack minded midfielder Leandro Bacuna has experience in the English Premier League and the English Championship with Cardiff City. He is Curacao’s leading international scorer with 11 goals, including the winner versus Honduras in this Gold Cup.
Curacao’s other goal in this tournament came in thrilling fashion when fullback Jurien Gaari scored in the 93rd minute to secure the draw with Jamaica and earn this quarterfinal matchup with the United States.
Curacao has used the same starting 11 in its last two matches. U.S boss Gregg Berhalter, who has referred to Curacao as a “Cinderella” team, will have a good idea of who they are going up against in a match that, let’s be honest, the U.S. will be expected to win, and win handily.
As the host nation, the Americans have enjoyed a relatively free ride to the Gold Cup quarterfinal, up to and including dodging Jamaica in the quarters and facing the least accomplished team to survive to this point in the Cup.
Should the Americans advance as expected, they would face the winner of Jamaica vs Panama. Thanks to the schedule maker for doing its part in saving the expected marquee matchup, the U.S.A. vs Mexico, for the Gold Cup Championship Final.
Having allowed zero goals while racking up a tally of 11 in three group games, Berhalter’s team will be expected to turn Curacao’s coach back into a pumpkin Sunday night in Philly.
Just a couple of hours after their landlords, the NY Yankees, engaged in a slugfest with the Boston Red Sox 3,000 miles away in London, New York City FC outscored the Philadelphia Union for a 4-2 victory at Yankee Stadium Saturday night.
And for all the complaints about playing soccer in the Big Ballyard in the Bronx, Dome Torrent’s men remain unbeaten at home in 2019. They are also undefeated in their last 11 matches league games.
Catellanos leads makeshift roster to win
In the first MLS action for NYC since a 5-2 home win over Cincinnatti on June 6, Vincent Catellanos was the hero, earning two penalty kicks, both of which were converted by Maxi Morales. Catellanos then scored two goals of his own from open play.
With NYCFC missing seven players, four injured and three on international duty, Casellanos’ contribution was badly needed, especially with leading goal scorer Heber out injured.
With his team shorthanded, coach Torrent certainly appreciated the contribution from Castellanos and some of his other bench players, saying,”“you know, it’s very important that I say that all of them deserve to play and that I don’t have a doubt about Taty because I say many times in the facilities, he never gave up and he did everything he could to convince the coaches.”
Torrent noted his team’s depth, adding, “I say many times, it’s impossible to play more than 14 players. And they have to be ready to play. And his opportunities are the same as Keaton (Parks). Keaton played the game really well again and it’s good news for us. And I don’t have doubts about my players, and I say many times to them, they have to be ready to play when I decide to play with them.”
New York had to overcome an early deficit on Saturday after Philadelphia took an early lead on a seventh minute goal from FaFa Picault, whose trap, turn, and shot in front of the New York goal was beautifully executed.
The home team got back on level terms when Castellanos drew the first of New York’s penalty kicks. Duly converted by Moralez for a 23rd minute equalizer.
In year’s past Philadelphia might have been expected to fold up its tents after coughing up an early lead but there is something a bit different about coach Jim Curtin’s crew this season, and within seven minutes Kacper Przybylko had put the Union back in front, set up by Jamiro Monteiro and Ilsinho.
That sort of bounce back attitude has the surprising Union sitting atop the MLS Eastern Conference. However, with four games in hand and its next two games at home, don’t sleep on NYCFC.
A flashpoint came in the 55th minute when Castellanos drew a second penalty kick after contact with the Union’s Alejandro Bedoya. Philadelphia hotly disputed the call at the time and former USMNT midfielder Bedoya likely earned imself a fine from the Commissioner’s Officewith his postgame comments, delivered, naturally via twitter.
Bedoya’s coach Jim Curtin had his captain’s back, even if his language was somewhat more diplomatic. “Castellanos was good at maybe embellishing a little bit and making it look worse than it was. On that play (Castellanos) doesn’t even see Ale coming. In my mind simple as I can put it: Ale is entitled to that ball just as much as Castellanos is. He puts his body in between the two, wins the ball. It looks like a hard contact but this is a contact game. I think the ref got that one wrong.”
Wrong or right, and for what it is worth, I thought the ref was on the money, Moralez buried his second pk of the match and we were level once again.
From there Castellanos the provider turned finisher, nothing the final two goals of the match to secure the three points for New York City FC.
Fox drew 6.12 million viewers for Friday’s match, and peaked at 8.24 million. The game was the most-watched English-language soccer telecast in the country since last year’s men’s World Cup final.
The game also drew over 211,000 live stream views.
This isn’t a one-time fluke either. The USWNT game vs Chile averaged 5.74M viewers.
While the US squad pulls a huge audience in America, interest in the Women’s World Cup isn’t just a stateside phenomenon. FIFA estimates over 1 Billion people will watch the Women’s World Cup across all platforms.
How Women’s World Cup stacks up against other sports
While these are not all apples-to-apples comparisons, the numbers do show an impressive level of interest in the women’s game at the World Cup. Consider the following:
- MLS: The typical MLS broadcast averages around 290,000 US viewers.
- Premier League: The average Premier League game draws approximately 428,500 US viewers.
- Champions League: The 2019 Champions League final brought in an audience of 2.9M in the US. Imagine how much lower that number would’ve been had Manchester City made the finals.
- MLB: The most watched MLB team is the New York Yankees. Their average game draws 277,000 viewers. Depending on the match-up, MLB playoffs attracted 2.4M – 6.4M viewers last year. However, the 2018 World Series deciding game drew over 10M viewers.
- NBA: Playoff ratings for the NBA dropped to 2.92 million viewers this year. The NBA Finals peaked with a US audience of over 10M.
- Super Bowl: While a one-game championship isn’t a fair comparison to a one-month spectacle, this one is interesting. The total Women’s World Cup viewership of 1B far eclipses the NFL’s Super Bowl. The most watched Super Bowl ever (2015 Patriots vs Seahawks) attracted a total global audience of approximately 164M people.